Despite being one of the only two states without helmet laws (the other being Illinois), Iowa takes motorcycle safety seriously. To operate a motorcycle in Iowa, you need a valid motorcycle instruction permit, a Class M motorcycle-only license, or an endorsement.
In Iowa, you can apply for a motorcycle license from the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT). You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for it.
To get an Iowa motorcycle license, a motorcycle rider must pass a knowledge exam, a vision test, and a road test. You can get the driving test waived if you have passed a motorcycle safety course.
Motorcycle license and motorcycle endorsement in Iowa
Iowa law states that a “motorcycle” means every motor vehicle with a saddle or seat for the rider’s use. It is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground. The definition includes a motor scooter but excludes a tractor, an autocycle, a low-speed electric bicycle, and a motorized bicycle.
In Iowa, you can get a Class M license, which is a motorcycle-only license. Or a motorcycle endorsement on a valid standard driver’s license (Class C). The minimum age is 16 years to apply for either.
If you are under 18 years, you must take a driver’s education before applying for a Class M license or endorsement. You also need to take a motorcycle safety course and get written consent from a legal guardian. This is required for all license holders who are minors.
You can also get a motorcycle instruction permit. This will allow you to practice riding before you apply for a motorcycle license. You must be at least 14 years old to apply for one.
Iowa motorcycle license
To apply for one, you have to first make an appointment at a local office of the Iowa Motor Vehicle Department (MVD). You can also do it at your county license office.
You will need to show proof of identity, Social Security Number, legal presence in the U.S., and Iowa residency (two proofs). Appropriate documents include a birth certificate, passport, permanent resident card, etc. You can check the list of necessary documents here.
Then, you have to pass a vision exam and a written knowledge test. You may need to pass an operator knowledge test if you still need to possess a standard driver’s license. You should also pass a road test.
You can study the Iowa motorcycle operator manual and the Iowa Driver’s Manual for the written exam.
Get the riding skills test waived.
You can get the skills test requirement waived if you have completed a course in motorcycle education. Iowa has a quality Motorcycle Rider Education (MRE) Program administered by the Iowa DOT’s Driver & Identification Services.
You can also get a certificate of completion of an MSF course conducted by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).
Iowa motorcycle endorsement
You must have a valid Iowa driver’s license to apply for one.
The first step is to make an appointment at a local office of the Iowa MVD or county license office.
You will need to show proof of identity, Social Security Number, legal presence in the U.S., and Iowa residency (two proofs). Appropriate documents include a birth certificate, passport, permanent resident card, etc.
Then, you have to pass a vision exam and a written motorcycle knowledge test. You can study the Iowa motorcycle operator manual for the written exam.
Unlike a motorcycle-only license, you don’t need to sit for an operator knowledge test. If you already have a valid driver’s license, you will have already passed it.
You also have to pass a road test.
Get the riding skills test waived.
You can get the road test requirement waived if you have completed a course in motorcycle education. You can join an Iowa MRE course or an MSF one approved by Iowa DOT.\.
Motorcycle instruction permit in Iowa
This is also an option to ride motorcycles legally in Iowa. You can get a separate permit or one attached to your valid driver’s license (like an endorsement).
Unlike many other states, it is not mandatory for those under 18 years to have one before going for a full motorcycle license. But you do need to complete a driver’s education and a motorcycle safety course.
To get your IA motorcycle learner’s permit, you need to visit your local IA MVD office to apply. You have to present documents that prove your identity, age, citizenship, and residency.
Then you have to pass a vision screening. You also need to pass two motorcycle permit tests. They are a motorcycle knowledge test and an operator’s knowledge test. If you already have an Iowa driver’s license, then the operator’s knowledge test is optional.
Once you pass the tests and pay the fees, you will get your Iowa motorcycle instruction permit. It is valid for 4 years. And it can’t be renewed.
A motorcycle instruction permit allows you to operate a motorcycle only when there is another person that has a license valid for motorcycles. Only one learner may be supervised by one licensed driver.
If you are under 18, a permit allows you to operate a motorcycle with a licensed parent/guardian. You can also ride if there is an immediate family member who is at least 21 years old to supervise.
If it is any other adult, you need to have written permission from your parent/guardian. And the supervisor must be at least 25 years old and have a valid motorcycle license.
- Currently, a motorcycle endorsement is $2/year. It expires when your existing license does.
- A Class M – motorcycle license only is $6/year. It is valid for 8 years.
- A motorcycle instruction permit is $2/year when added to an existing license. Or $14 if you are obtaining a motorcycle instruction permit and don’t have another type of license.
If it is an addition to an existing license, it is valid for as long as the license is. If you are obtaining a motorcycle instruction permit only, it is valid only for four years.
Check all details here.
Iowa’s motorcycle law designates certain three-wheeled motor vehicles as autocycles.
An autocycle is a three-wheeled motor vehicle that has two front wheels and one rear wheel.
It has a steering wheel rather than handlebars and up to two permanent seats.
In these situations, you don’t need a motorcycle endorsement or license to ride one. You can use any license for noncommercial passenger vehicles.
If you have an out-of-state license
You can also transfer a valid out-of-state motorcycle license.
For that, visit a DOT or county licensing office and turn in your existing license. Re-taking a motorcycle knowledge test and a road test is not usually needed. You also need to present documents proving your identity, residency, etc.
Do you need motorcycle insurance?
Iowa does not have a compulsory insurance law. But it requires all motorcyclists to prove that they have insurance if they are in a motorcycle accident. Or show another form of financial responsibility.
In such cases, if a motorcyclist cannot show some form of financial responsibility, he risks losing both his license and registration.
In the state of Iowa, you can get a motorcycle license or endorsement from the Iowa Department of Transportation. You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for it and must pass a knowledge exam, a vision test, and a road test. Alternatively, you can get the driving test waived if you have passed a motorcycle safety course.